I first read this book in the 1960's and was puzzled but liked it. In 1989 I realised that it was a strange prophecy of the Fall of Communism. The victim, Cincinnatus, condemned to death for the crime of being an individual, is the prisoner of a State that is vicious but withered, its ideology regressed to senile infantilism. The individual is still to be crushed and destroyed, but one gradually realises the power and terror of the State has become eaten out at the core. The ruling ideology has no more strength. On the scaffold, about to be beheaded, he comes to his senses, stands up, refuses his role, and the whole idiotic apparatus crumbles to dust. A symbolic forcasting of what happened in Prague, Budapest, Warsaw and East Berlin in 1989-90. Nabakov's best, in my opinion, written with all his strange mastery of prose. Nabakov said he had read no Kafka when he read it, but it is reminiscent of a more positive version of Kafka's "Trial". A great, unforgettable book. It is strange that the Fall of Communism has produced so little literature, but this is the story of it, written more than 50 years before it happened.